Travel

The Story Behind Blind Tiger, Portland’s Newest Boutique Hotel, Is as Colorful as its Interiors

Hint: The hotel's name harks back to the Prohibition Era.


blind tiger

Photo by Read McKendree

Portland’s newest boutique hotel is the sort of place that’ll have you plastering evidence of your stay all over Instagram, but there was once a time when a visit to this same spot would have been something you’d want to keep hush-hush. Lark Hotels’ Blind Tiger, which recently opened inside the former Danforth Inn with design-forward interiors and revamped amenities, takes its name from a Prohibition-Era slang phrase signifying an illegal bar. The reason? That’s exactly what the space once was.

Originally built as a residence in 1823, the Federalist-style mansion was later sold to another owner, the Thomas family, who enlarged the abode to accommodate the large and lavish parties they often hosted. The home earned the nickname “Social Corners” because of its notorious gatherings, and even after Maine became the first state to pass a prohibition law in 1851, the merrymaking didn’t end: The family instead hosted bashes in the home’s secret underground club.

In the centuries to follow, the building served as a school, a seminary, and eventually the Danforth Inn, before Lark Hotels purchased it last year and began renovations. “When we were first made aware of this property, we were in awe of its history,” Rob Blood, Lark Hotels president and co-founder of Elder & Ash, the Amesbury firm that helmed the redesign, said in a press release. “Today, Blind Tiger honors that spirit with a unique take on the urban guest house [that offers] space to gather and celebrate in your own way.”

Photo by Read McKendree

Photo by Read McKendree

The hotel features an inviting first floor with a sunporch and a mahogany bar, as well as nine guestrooms. All of the suites are filled with bold colors, abundant texture, and a mix of modern and vintage décor, but each maintains its own distinctive, imaginative style. In fact, every one of the accommodations is inspired by and named after a local creative or visionary who helped shaped Portland—from artists and writers to musicians and chefs. The second-floor “Eight Bells” room, for instance, is named after a Winslow Homer painting, now on show at the Portland Museum of Arts, and features the same palette as the artwork, plus a four-poster king bed and expansive windows with original interior shutters.

In addition to decades-old wood-burning fireplaces and moldings preserved in each of the guest suites, the home’s underground space was also maintained in the renovation, as was its cupola. Now guests can play billiards in the former subterranean speakeasy and head up to the cupola for views of Portland Harbor. Both spaces can also be rented for social gatherings—which likely would make the Thomas family proud.

blind tiger

Photo by Read McKendree

Photo by Read McKendree

Photo by Read McKendree

blind tiger

Photo by Read McKendree

blind tiger

Photo by Read McKendree

163 Danforth St., Portland, ME, 207-879-8755, blindtigerportland.com.